When I was younger, I wasn’t aware that I had a race. Race was not really discussed before I started school. My
identity became a blend of the urban atmosphere, the Canadian television broadcasts that I watched for hours daily, and a household environment with a set of rules that did not allow slang to be spoken or any speech with a ‘slang’ type of accent or dialect. While I am from Detroit, many people started to think that I might have been Canadian or from the suburban areas because of my lack of urban flavor.
Finally, I was taught about the Middle Passage in school and realized that I might be Black. However, because I didn’t know of any of the stereotypes or supposed hobbies that would be expected of me due to being Black, I developed unique interests. I played the harmonica when I was very young, I later played the violin, and finally, I became a classical pianist. As an adult, I play in concerts frequently. Also, I found myself enamored with the Hispanic culture. I enrolled in a Spanish course at the age of ten and I quickly became nearly fluent in the language. Learning about Hispanic customs strangely felt as if I were exposing a hidden part of myself. I didn’t understand the feeling, but I enjoyed it.
Nevertheless, I excelled in school, despite being from a disadvantaged background, and graduated a year early as the valedictorian of Northern Senior High School. I attended college and graduated Summa Cum Laude and earned two Master’s degrees as well. I am an engineer while attending school to earn a Ph.D. in Psychology.
I also discovered family information that shed some light on my multicultural interests. Eventually, I found out that my mother is of African-American and Choctaw Native American descent. She spent much of her early life living with her Choctaw relatives. I found out that my father is of African-American and Puerto Rican (West African, Taino and Spanish from Spain) descent. Due to the ‘one drop rule’ of the time, they were both declared to be Black. All of a sudden, it made sense that I naturally felt drawn to the Latino culture. I am Black, but I am also Native American and Latina (Puerto Rican). I was proud to have finally found myself and to feel that I belonged to the community to which I felt so much of a connection.
Recently, I have been selected as “Ms. Detroit, Michigan” to represent my hometown at the Ms. Corporate America competition in 2017. My platform is “Modestine”, which is an effort to encourage women to seek healthcare by donating to scholarships that support women in medicine and suggesting options that might allow them to maintain more modesty during medical examinations. Also, I would like to use my success as an engineer to inspire women to enter STEM fields. Nonetheless, because I know my background, I also hope to be a role model for other Afro-Latina women so that they feel free to embrace their entire identities. Innately, these women know who they are, and they should feel proud.
Aurelia is a Ph.D. student in Psychology from Detroit, Michigan.